State Farm and KRC Research conducted an online survey of 1,000 U.S. drivers over 18 years old and learned there's room for improvement. According to the survey nearly two out of three (64 percent) U.S. drivers have experienced an act of aggressive driving six times or more in the past three months from another driver.
The majority of these incidents involve men between the ages of 18 and 26. However, the number of aggressive women drivers is on the rise. There is also a general increase of women on the roadways at higher risk times, such as rush hour and at night.
Thesecond group of aggressive drivers appears prone to socially approved forms ofaggression such as competition, which can easily be translated into aggressivedriving behaviors. Competitive drivers dislike being passed, enjoy the thrillof speeding, and lack the internal controls to override their competitivenesson the road. Research has shown that both the antisocial and the competitivedrivers have significantly more accidents and traffic violations than thegeneral driving public.
Not quite. Skyscrapers and superhighways made the deadline, but driverless cars still putter along in prototype. Human beings, as it turns out, aren’t easy to improve upon. For every accident they cause, they avoid a thousand others. They can weave through tight traffic and anticipate danger, gauge distance, direction, pace, and momentum. Americans drive nearly three trillion miles a year, I was told by Ron Medford, a former deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who now works for Google. It’s no wonder that we have thirty-two thousand fatalities along the way, he said. It’s a wonder the number is so low.
Atendency toward aggression or competitiveness is not sufficient to causeaggressive driving. Environmental, situational, or cultural factors must comeinto play before someone with such tendencies will be triggered to driveaggressively.
The lackof negative reinforcement (citations) for aggressive driving can alsocontribute to a driver's likelihood to engage in it. Given the high number ofaggressive driving actions and the relatively low number of police officers,the probability of officers' detecting any particular aggressive driving actionis rather low.
The car'sand the road's physical environment can either facilitate or inhibit theexpression of aggression while driving. Manipulating environmental conditionscan inhibit antisocial and competitive drivers from driving aggressively.
Thisantisocial group of drivers is prone to hostile aggression in and out of theirvehicles. Antisocial drivers have high rates of accidents and violations andare many times more likely than the general driving population to have criminalhistories.
Roadconditions can increase driver frustration. Bottlenecks, lack of signsindicating the source of unexpected congestion, short green-light intervals,confusing intersections (such as roundabouts), and stretches of uncoordinatedtraffic lights can trigger aggression.
Whileyoung white men are the largest single group of aggressive drivers, there is nosingle definitive profile of aggressive-driving perpetrators.Otherwise law-abiding citizens commit many aggressive driving acts.
Smart cars were more flexible but also more complex. They needed sensors to guide them, computers to steer them, digital maps to follow. In the nineteen-eighties, a German engineer named Ernst Dickmanns, at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, equipped a Mercedes van with video cameras and processors, then programmed it to follow lane lines. Soon it was steering itself around a track. By 1995, Dickmanns’s car was able to drive on the Autobahn from Munich to Odense, Denmark, going up to a hundred miles at a stretch without assistance. Surely the driverless age was at hand! Not yet. Smart cars were just clever enough to get drivers into trouble. The highways and test tracks they navigated were strictly controlled environments. The instant more variables were added—a pedestrian, say, or a traffic cop—their programming faltered. Ninety-eight per cent of driving is just following the dotted line. It’s the other two per cent that matters.
Frustrationand anger do not, however, always result in aggression. Driving aggressionoccurs when a mix of personal, situational, environmental, and cultural factorscombine to reduce the inhibitions most drivers feel against actingaggressively. Personal factors such as antisocial and competitive tendenciescan make a driver prone to aggression, but aggression is unlikely to resultabsent other contributing factors. Environmental factors such as the anonymity carsprovide, situational factors such as feeling urgent about meeting driving goals,and cultural factors such as approval for placing personal goals over thecommon good can all contribute to lower the qualms drivers would otherwise haveagainst aggressive behavior.
The mostsignificant triggering events for road rage are relatively minor. They includeaggressive tailgating (62% of cases), headlight flashing (60% of cases),deliberately obstructing other vehicles (21% of cases), and verbally abusingother drivers (16% of cases).In short, aggressive driving begets aggressive driving.
Researchfindings are mixed on whether aggressive driving is more prevalent today thanin the past. What is known is that aggressive driving occurs frequentlyand is a significant contributor to injury and fatality collisions. While theviolent and assaultive acts that constitute road rage are rare, they deservepolice attention.